Piano Tuning, Repair and Maintenance Services:

  • Tuning: The piano should be tuned to “A-440” pitch, meaning that the middle A on the piano sounds at 440 cycles per second and all other notes are tuned relative to this note. This is the international standard. Since each piano is different, this middle A is the only constant when tuning any piano; no two pianos are otherwise tuned exactly alike. A good tuning will not only have the middle A at the correct pitch, but will have all remaining strings – about 220 on most pianos – in harmony with one another in all keys, with clean-sounding octaves and unisons, and with the tuning pins set for maximum tuning stability. Although some pianos built in the early 20th century were designed for tuning at a somewhat lower pitch (A-435), these pianos usually can and should be tuned to the modern standard.
  • Repair: Complete piano repair service is available on site or in my shop, depending on the nature of the repair needed.
    • Repair on Site: Many common piano repairs can be completed relatively quickly on site; e.g., malfunctioning keys or dampers, broken strings, pedals, hammers, casters, loose tuning pins.
    • Repair in Shop, located in Lawrence, Kansas: Some repairs require special tools or more time than can be provided on site. Often it is only necessary to move some of the parts and not the entire piano to the shop for repair.
  • Cleaning: Pianos accumulate a lot of dust and grit which can affect performance. I offer complete cleaning of case, action and soundboard, including dust under the strings.
  • Regulation: How the piano plays and feels, its speed, power and repetition, are often a function of proper regulation. Please see the Piano Care Quick Reference.
  • Voicing: The tone of the piano can be manipulated – usually brightened or mellowed – by various means.
  • Dampp Chaser Humidity Control Systems: I am an authorized dealer and installer of the Damp Chaser and related maintenance products – please view a link for more details on the Supplies & Inventory page.
  • Purchase and Sale Consultation: I offer inspection and evaluation of new or used pianos for those considering purchase or sale of a piano.
  • Sales: From time to time I have used pianos for sale. Please refer to the Supplies & Inventory page.

Registered Piano Technician – Piano Technicians Guild

A Registered Piano Technician (RPT) is a member of the Piano Technicians Guild who has passed a series of examinations covering all aspects of piano tuning, repair and regulation. The Piano Technicians Guild is the only organization in North America which sets standards for professional competence of piano technicians and provides testing to assess its members’ attainment of those standards. Membership in the Guild is at two levels, Associate and Registered (RPT). Nationwide, less than 2,500 piano technicians hold the designation of RPT.

A Quick Reference Guide for Piano Care

Caring for the Piano You Have.

A working piano is a treasure. Pianos are complex machines, largely hand-assembled, which are becoming ever more expensive to manufacture. They typically have about as many moving parts as automobiles, and for higher quality new instruments, the purchase price can be comparable. All pianos require periodic maintenance. While electronic keyboards are cheaper and require no maintenance, they cannot match the touch sensitivity and tonal subtleties of any piano. If your piano is not new, you may be surprised at the cost of replacing it with a comparable new one at today’s prices. It therefore makes sense to do what you can to preserve your piano’s life and enhance its performance.

Tuning: How Often?

Generally, three things cause a piano to go out of tune: changes in climate, playing it, and the mere passage of time. The piano is made primarily of wood, so it is greatly affected by moisture in the air. At a minimum, it will usually go out of tune at the beginning of winter, when the drop in household humidity dries out the wood and causes it to shrink, and at the beginning of summer, when the increase in household humidity causes the wood to swell. The swelling and shrinking alter the tension of the strings. In addition, tuning is affected by how often and how hard the piano gets played. Pianos used in churches, schools or entertainment venues, for example, require more frequent tunings than the typical home piano.

In any event, the high tension of the strings (cumulatively, about 18 to 20 tons) will relax over time, causing the piano’s pitch to drop, or to go “flat.” At some point, usually after a year or so, the piano will become flat enough that getting its proper pitch restored will probably require the additional expense of a pitch-raise tuning before a fine tuning is possible. Tuning the piano once a year may be sufficient to preserve an acceptable pitch, but fine-tuning issues will usually become evident sooner than that.

How often you should have the piano tuned therefore depends your own artistic requirements and your budget. The piano makes better music when it’s in good tune. Whereas a concert piano may get tuned before each performance, in the home, twice a year – winter and summer – is usually a good compromise. As a child, my interest in continuing with piano lessons always got a boost after the piano was tuned.

Humidity Control.

Humidity fluctuation is the piano’s worst enemy. It is the leading cause of tuning instability and cracks in the wood which can ultimately destroy the piano. Pianos share a number of characteristics with violins: strings bearing down on wooden bridges (the piano has two) which are supported by a thin, arched, wooden sound board, and attached at each end to a rigid frame. One end of each piano string wraps around a steel tuning pin which is anchored in a wooden block at one end of the frame. The sound board amplifies and colors the sound of the strings. Increased room humidity is absorbed by the sound board, bridges and pin block, causing them to swell. The block tightens its grip on the tuning pins and the sound board’s arch or “crown” rises, pressing the bridges harder against the strings and increasing string tension. The opposite phenomenon occurs when the climate becomes dry. The temporary effect of these fluctuations is that the piano goes out of tune; the effect over time is that cracks form in the soundboard, bridges, and pin block.

Obviously then, anything you can do to stabilize the humidity around the piano will postpone its demise. It is a bad idea, for example, to place a piano next to a heat vent or an open window. Air conditioning the house in summer and using a furnace humidifier in winter should be considered minimum measures for protection of your investment, although these will only make a slight difference in the relative humidity in the room. The best remedy is a humidity control system installed in the piano itself. These systems will usually pay for themselves over time in the benefits they deliver: tunings that last longer and longer life for the piano.

Many piano manufacturers now recommend them for their pianos. I currently have two home pianos and a Dampp Chaser humidity control system on each.

The Piano’s Mechanisms: Repair, Regulation and Voicing.

Mechanical problems in the piano can affect its touch and its sound. They are usually repairable or adjustable, and as they becomes more acute the limitations on what we can play increase. Excessive play in the action, unevenness of touch, wobbly keys, keys that are not level, double striking notes, notes that are sluggish or not repeating properly – these are obstacles to good musical performance and are symptoms of a piano whose mechanisms are in need of some degree of regulation (adjustment), or repair.

The shape and resilience of the felt hammers which strike the piano’s strings also affect tone. Over time the wool hammer felt becomes compressed, causing grooves in the hammers that are plainly visible. As the grooves become deeper, the result is an increasingly flat, hardened surface striking the string instead of the bouncy, curved surface that was designed for the piano. This will eventually cause the piano to sound harsh, instead of warm and pleasant. Very old and worn hammers may need to be replaced. Otherwise, hammers can be reshaped, restoring the proper curvature and strike point with the strings, and then “voiced”, usually softening the hammer felt to soften the piano’s sound to the player’s preference. Hammers can be hardened as well for a brighter sound.

Critter Control.

One of the favorite hangouts of mice is inside of pianos. The felts used in the piano’s bushings and hammers are apparently among mouse kind’s favorite nesting materials. The soft wood from which the piano’s keys are made is likewise popular. Mice have accounted for much serious piano damage, and periodic inspection of the piano’s interior is a good idea. I include an inspection as a part of any tuning. Aside from vigilance and perhaps a good cat, the best remedy may be simply to play and enjoy your piano often: its sound is probably loud and frightening to any mice inside of it and it may encourage them to move elsewhere.

The Piano’s Life Span.

Pianos do wear out. They can last for generations and play for years without needing major repairs. However, at some point every piano reaches a crossroad, where a decision needs to be made whether to fix it or replace it. A worn out pin block, which holds the tuning pins, will prevent the piano from staying in tune. A worn out action will make playing the most basic music an unreasonable challenge.

Repairing these particular problems can be costly enough that the value of the piano should be considered before deciding to undertake them. If you decide it’s time for an upgrade, always seek the advice of a competent piano technician before you buy the replacement.